Imperial College London

Twitter buys AI startup founded by Imperial academic to tackle fake news


Man holding a iPhone 6 Space Gray with social networking service Twitter on the screen

Credit: Shutterstock / Denys Prykhodov

A startup founded by an Imperial academic has been bought by Twitter to address the spread of fake news across the social network.

Fabula AI uses machine learning to analyse the behaviour of Twitter users, including tweets likes, and retweets, to help the social network build up a picture of relationships and interactions.

Its technology can identify patterns in how information moves around the site and can use this analysis to detect how authentic it is. 

Fabula AI is co-founded by Professor Michael Bronstein, Chair in Machine Learning and Pattern Recognition at Imperial. He said: "We are really excited to join the Machine Learning research team at Twitter and work together to grow their team and capabilities."

Improving the conversation

Tech companies are facing mountain pressure to tackle fake news and other “online harms”. A recent Government white paper proposed that social media sites could face substantial fines or personal liability for senior management if they fail to tackle illegal or harmful activity such as terrorist content, child abuse, harassment and disinformation.

Twitter said that Fabula AI would help it "improve the health of the conversation", and in the future would also contribute to halting online spam and abuse.

Parag Agrawal, Twitter's chief technology officer, said: "This strategic investment in graph deep learning research, technology and talent will be a key driver as we work to help people feel safe on Twitter and help them see relevant information."

Solving problems with tech

Professor Bronstein will join Twitter as its head of graph deep learning research, while retaining his Imperial post.

Dr Rebeca Santamaria-Fernandez, Director of Industry Partnerships & Commercialisation for Imperial's Faculty of Engineering, said: “Imperial has an extensive entrepreneurial ecosystem, and identifying routes for our world-leading academics to improve our understanding of the challenges faced by industry is an important part of the College’s work.

“Establishing new modes of engagement  for Imperial researchers to split their time between academia and industry is just one of the routes for helping our technologies solve serious societal problems such as the spread of disinformation and fake news.”

Twitter’s acquisition of Fabula AI builds on other investments the company has made in machine learning, including Magic Pony - founded by Imperial graduates Rob Bishop and Zehan Wang - which Twitter acquired in 2016.


Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications and Public Affairs

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